Review by Lilen Pautasso, as featured on New York webzine, Puluche.com (http://puluche.com/reviews/red-hot-chili-peppers-californication-100/)
In the years before the birth of Californication, the Red Hot Chili Peppers had endured it all: substance abuse, divorce, line-up changes and even death. While it took almost seven years to receive any critical recognition (Blood Sugar Sex Magik), it was the band’s seventh studio album that elevated their musical success to its climax. Led by bassist Michael “Flea” Balzary, vocalist Anthony Kiedis and drummer Chad Smith, the band went through numerous lead guitarists with varying degrees of success. It wasn’t until they fired guitarist Dave Navarro that the band reunited with the unique and slightly eccentric talent of John Frusciante, a unity that marked the way towards ultimate career ascendancy.
In just the opening few seconds, Californication delivers an epic introduction that symbolizes the new and exceedingly improved ‘Chili Peppers.’ Starting with a cacophony of distorted bass, drums and one very long and echoed yell, the album’s first track “Around the World” is one of the most memorable. Instantaneously transforming into a unique (and oddly fitting) hip-hop groove, this song is a complete juxtaposition – yelling turns to rapping, soothing harmonies kick-in and a distorted bass converts to a funk-rock rhythm machine. Filled with tracks that contrast each other and themselves, the album is an entrancing auditory journey through various genres, styles and rhythms. Whether listening to the funk and hip-hop grooves of “I Like Dirt,” the melancholy “Porcelain” or the fast-paced chaos of “Right on Time,” there is something different on every song and at every moment.
But while there are memorable occasions throughout the album, one of its most unrivaled triumphs has to be “Scar Tissue.” In what would later earn the band a Grammy, the song is a catchy sing-along track that showcases the talents of Kiedis and Frusciante. The blues-rock guitar combined with an exceptional vocal performance by Kiedis allows a listener to vicariously experience the song’s story about the afflictions of substance abuse and the enormous cost of addiction. Having both been through the torment of drug abuse, the song is the most autobiographical; “Scar Tissue” is a reference to the painful reminder of habits past. As Kiedis sings lyrics like “Blood loss in a bathroom stall” or “I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl,” it paints a vivid image of his self-confessed downward spiral that he wishes never to return to.
While “Scar Tissue” is written with powerful honesty, it differs greatly from other tracks on the album. Lyrically, every track tells a different story – whether truthful, eccentric or even humorous. With lines like “Gorrilla, cunt-illa, Sammy D and Salmonella, come with me ‘cause I’m an ass killer, you’re ill but, I’m iller” (“Get on Top”), the album hits the mark when it comes to drawing a listener’s attention.
Showcasing the many faces of the band both musically and lyrically, the thematic variances demonstrate a group that has come a long way since their debut 15 years before. Closing with the harmonious “Road Trippin,” the track is a representative of a matured Red Hot Chili Peppers and their reignited passion for music. Driven by acoustic interludes and Kiedis’ slow, clean vocals, the song symbolizes closure, the unity of friends, and a complete re-birth that would eventually lead to success.
In a few words, Californication can be described as a memorable and entrancing fusion of music’s best elements. With traces of hip-hop, funk, alternative and hard rock, the album is a modern musical masterpiece that showcases exceptional song writing and composition. It is this definable quality that has characterized the band’s musical identity and subsequently fueled a global addiction to the ‘Chili Pepper’ funk/rock fusion. Together with their newly-formed status and worldwide fellowship, the Chili Peppers would go on to become one of the biggest rock bands in musical history – most of which was a direct result of the ingenuity and powerful vibe of Californication.
Californication became the band’s biggest commercial success with more than 16 million copies sold worldwide. The album yielded four hit singles (“Around the World,” “Otherside,” “Californication” and “Scar Tissue”) and the band was recognized in Top lists all over the world by a wide range of music critics. Frusciante was named one of the top guitarists of all-time and Californication one of the top albums of the past 100 years by Rolling Stone.
The album was followed three years later with By the Way (2002), and then four years later by the double album Stadium Arcadium (2006) which was their first number one album in America. After a world tour, the group went on an extended hiatus and Frusciante announced he was amicably leaving the band to focus on his solo career.
(c) Lilen Pautasso 2013